Where Are They Now? Products Announced During Past Google I/O Keynotes

The keynotes at Google I/O — Google’s developer conference — are always filled with such promise. Google TV, Google Wave, music in the cloud! But the products themselves haven’t always gone on to meet expectations. With Google I/O 2011 beginning on Tuesday, here’s a look back at what’s happened with past keynote product graduates.

Google I/O Class Of 2008

I didn’t attend the very first Google I/O, held May 28-29 2008. In fact, I don’t even remember much of it from the regular Google coverage that we do.

Looking back on the TechCrunch coverage, a Wikipedia round-up and some checking against the official Google Blog, the Google I/O Class Of 2008 appears to have been Google Gears becoming just Gears, Android being shown on a handset, Google Friend Connect, and the Google App Engine opening to anyone.

Google Gears: Dead

Gears (originally Google Gears) was held out as a Google-backed way designed to allow web browsers to run software applications natively. The name change to Gears went along with Google stressing that it was an open source method that anyone could use to create cloud-based apps.

Gears effectively died in February 2010, when Google made it official that building browser/cloud-based apps with HTML 5 was the way forward, for the future.

Google Friend Connect: Forgotten

Touted as a way for sites to make themselves more social, Google Friend Connect — which officially came out just before Google I/O — got a nod in the keynote talks. Singer Ingrid Michaelson’s site was used as a poster child.

Today, Google Friend Connect is gone from Michaelson’s site — though you can friend her on Facebook, follow her on Twitter or keep up with her on LinkedIn. Google remains in the mix through its YouTube site.

Overall, I’d say that Google Friend Connect has largely been forgotten in the wake of Facebook’s social tools. In fact, I say a lot more about this (including some charts) in my post from last week, Has Facebook Become The Master Key To Unlocking The Web?

Google App Engine: Quiet Success?

Google App Engine was released a month before Google I/O, as a way for people to host web applications on Google. We don’t cover the product much here, as it’s not really search-related. But it appears to be doing well.

Evidence? For one, the product has its own blog, with fresh entries. When Google products dies, outdated blogs serve as their obituary.

On the Google App Engine blog, there’s fresh news that the product handled its highest traffic levels ever, courtesy of the Royal Wedding.

Android: Raging Success

Pick your stat, there’s no question that Android is a huge success. In a world where it seemed that the iPhone had conquered the smartphone space, Google’s Android operating system went from zero to rival in an incredibly short period of time.

Android got demoed to developers at Google I/O 2008. The first commercial handsets, the G1, came out a few months later. Initial reviews were poor, but Android kept improving.

Google I/O Class Of 2009

I live blogged both days of Google I/0 2009. On the first day, it was mostly updates on things like Google App Engine and how HTML 5 was shaping up to enable web apps.

Oh, and Google I/O had its own “Oprah” moment when Google gave all the attendees a special Android 1.5 phone (I got one, too. It’s sits on my desk and gets used on the infrequent occasion when I want to see what Android 1.6 is like).

But really, Google I/O 2009′s big product announcement was Google Wave.

Google Wave: Dead

Google Wave was the star of the second day keynote at Google I/O 2009.  When I live blogged the news, I kept remarking how the developers around me were going wild while I, from my lowly user perspective, wasn’t getting how wonderful it supposedly was.

Just over a year later, with Google Wave having been released but not gaining any real traction, Google closed Google Wave. I’d count it as one of the company’s biggest failures, given the amount of prestige capital that was expended on it and expectations that were set.

Let’s Celebrate Google’s Biggest Failures! has more perspective on this. After Google Wave was closed, the leading figure behind it, the highly-respected Lars Rasmussen (who also created Google Maps), jumped to Facebook. But it’s hard to see what else Google could have done to support the project, as I wrote last year.

Google I/O Class Of 2010

During the first keynote of Google I/O 2010, WebM got much time, as did the Chrome Web Store. The second day saw talk of Google’s voice recognition progress, the growth of Android Market and a cloud-based music system.

There was another Oprah moment of everyone being given HTC Evo 4G phones (yes, I got one. It also sits on my desk in case I want to compare it to others as a reference device. This covers all three free phones I’ve had from Google plus review units I’ve received, and how I use none of these as my main phone).

The real star of the second day, however, was news about Google TV.

WebM Wins … YouTube

I don’t cover the video encoding space at all. But WebM was a big deal at Google I/0 2010, positioned as an open video format that anyone could use without patent licensing worries.

The biggest win by WebM, as best I can tell, since Google I/O 2010 was Google’s own YouTube, which started converting all new videos to the format last month and began working to covert existing videos.

How widespread it is beyond YouTube (which, even if owned by Google, is a huge win), I don’t know. Perhaps others who do will comment.

Chrome Store … Anyone?

Google sees a future where all apps run within a web browser — and the Chrome Web Store was previewed at Google I/O 2010 as a way to help advance the state of web apps by providing a (say it, say it!), iOS-like app store for the Chrome browser.

I literally have no idea if the store is a success or not. It launched in December in conjunction with the start of the Chrome OS pilot program (see also, First Day Review: The Google Chrome OS Cr-48 Notebook).

I found one story talking about how it has grown to nearly 4,000 apps and 11 million users (registered? monthly? who knows?) and that growth has slowed.

But what’s it compared to in order to measure success? Number of apps (I hope not, because just having 10,000 apps more than something else doesn’t matter, if they’re all crummy). Downloads? Apps that are regularly used? And versus Windows software? MacOS applications? iOS apps?

The store is just too far outside my area of expertise to assess. But perhaps the bigger issue is that I’d say its real test will come with the commercial launch of Chrome OS.

Those machines will heavily depend on Chrome apps. When they finally launch (one report puts this near July), if they’re adopted, the number of machines sold will probably be a better assessment of the Chrome Web Store. And really, of Chrome OS itself.

Google Music 3.0 … Still Waiting

As part of the second day keynote at Google I/O 2010, Google demoed a cloud-based music system. By cloud-based, I mean that all your music would be stored on the internet (cloud sounds so much more cooler, you see). From the internet, you could access it on your phone, your PC or through any connected device.

We’re still waiting for this product, which Google never put a name to (that I can recall or locate now, at least). But I’m calling it Google Music — and this would be Google Music 3.0, by my reckoning.

Google Music Search 2.0 Launches With Musical “OneBox” is our story from October 2009, covering Google Music 2.0 — a way to search, find and listen to music more easily within Google. It improved on Google Music 1.0, which was a system that didn’t include actual audio previews.

Google Music 2.0 suffered a number of blows a few months after it launched. RJ Pittman, a director of product management at Google who was the driving force behind Google Music, jumped ship to Apple in March 2010.

In April 2010, Google downplayed that loss, as well as the impact of Lala closing. Lala was a cloud-based music service that was a key part of the music previews in Google Music 2.0. Apple bought the service in December 2009.

Meanwhile, Official: Google Stops The Music Search from us last month covers how Google closed Google 2.0 entirely. Heck, even the old Google Music 1.0 information that Google once provided has gone.

Will Google I/O 2011 see an update on Google Music 3.0? I’d say that’s a leading expectation. There have been rumors it’s coming soon, and an Android-based app for it was even spotted in the wild. One report last month has Google buying Spotify to help make it all happen. Another report last month from AllThingsD is that negotiations with music label are “going backwards.”

Mix to this the intrigue of a race between Apple and Google to get to a cloud-based music system first, as well as Amazon beating them both at the end of March, and it’s even more an key area to watch.

Google TV: Disappointing, But At Least Not Dead

Last year’s biggest news during Google I/O was the preview of Google TV. The demo looked amazing. The reality, when it launched in October, was that it disappointed severely

Life With Google TV: My First Day Review & Impressions from me last year covers the incredibly complicated interface, which was strike one against it. But the bigger blow and strike two has been having major networks block viewing web-based video they offer from being shown through it.

A Tour Of How Networks Have Blocked Google TV From Their Web Content from last year explains more about that blocking. It doesn’t prevent Google TV from being used in other ways. You can still watch live TV through it. You can still use it to program your DVR.

Indeed, Programming Your DVR Made Easy: Google TV, Dish & The Logitech Revue from last year covers just how awesome Google TV can be, when all things work in its favor. But a lot needs to change for it to improve.

Google still hasn’t managed to get authorized for Hulu Plus to play through the service, for instance (see Why You’re Still Waiting For Hulu Plus On Google TV for more on this). This is more than six months after the launch.

Key partner Logitech, it was recently reported, earned only $5 million in Google TV sales in the fourth quarter of last year, well below what it had expected (but the company is still “enthusiastic”).

Business Insider reported last month a source saying that Google TV will improve going forward with a faster processor, the ability to run more Android apps and a better user experience. AllThingsD reported that a new version of Google TV is unlikely to come until later this year, with a repositioning of it as adding to traditional TV, rather that a viewing alternative to it.

My take? Processor speed isn’t an issue. Apps aren’t going to dive in and save it. For Google TV to succeed, it needs to make it easier to watch web-based TV content through your TV — which means losing the network blocking. And that means making Hollywood believe that Google isn’t supporting web piracy. ‘

Google’s been working on that. See:

The competition? Internet-To-TV Players Compared: Roku, Apple TV, Boxee & Google TV is our guide that I think makes it clear how right now, a little $60 Roku box beats Google TV or even Apple TV, in many ways.

What To Expect At Google I/O 2011?

Having covered previous big announcements, what might Google I/O 2011 bring?

Perhaps nothing.

Avoiding big product announcements certainly helps avoid big disappointments as with Google Wave or Google TV, if things don’t go as planned. Certainly there are signs Google’s trying to set some lowered expectations.

GigaOm reported that Google I/O won’t have any big Google TV news, according to its sources. And as we reported last week in Don’t Expect A Big Social Announcement At Google I/O 2011, there are no plans for Google to roll out some new (and expected) social network.

I suspect we’ll see Google play to its strengths — lots of keynote news about Android, the Chrome browser and perhaps if it’s going to place a keynote bet this year, Chrome OS will be it.

I’ll be live blogging both keynotes from the event, on Tuesday and Wednesday of next week. You all come back now, you hear?

Postscript: See news from us out of the event below:

Related Topics: Channel: Other | Features: Analysis | Google: I/O


About The Author: is a Founding Editor of Search Engine Land. He’s a widely cited authority on search engines and search marketing issues who has covered the space since 1996. Danny also serves as Chief Content Officer for Third Door Media, which publishes Search Engine Land and produces the SMX: Search Marketing Expo conference series. He has a personal blog called Daggle (and keeps his disclosures page there). He can be found on Facebook, Google + and microblogs on Twitter as @dannysullivan.

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  • http://buzzintechnology.com B.I.

    During Google I/O 2010, other than Google TV, I only remember Google taking digs/pot shots at Apple at every given opportunity. It will be interesting to see What Vic Gundotra has in store this year.

  • http://www.informationworkshop.org MarkHernandez

    One big elephant in the room I hope Google can address at Google I/O is the handset updating challenge to all the different handsets through all the different carriers (and sometimes underneath the UI layers the handset makers apply). Apple has already made the “locationgate” issue all but moot before they even testify in Congress, having already updated all iPhones that wish to be updated.

    Developers will find it difficult to add new features to their apps if the giant Android installed base is lagging or selectively abandoned (many recent handsets will never receive and OS update.) iOS 5 promises to be made available to the current and previous generation(s) with no delay, without carrier interference and developers will be able to update their apps to quickly take advantage of new OS features and be released at the same time as the OS update.

    How “updating” affects technology being pushed forward and subsequently a platform’s competitiveness will be interesting to watch.

  • http://www.inlevel.com I.L.

    Apart from the Android forking problem on handsets mentioned by MarkHernandez, there is also the issue with tablet-focused Android 3.0. It is quite another beast than the rest of the pack.

    And as reviews of Xoom show, it still requires improvements to be able to successfully compete with iOS 4 powering iPads.

    As for the Chrome web store mentioned in the article, there is a need for marketplaces for web apps, but I’m not sure Google is going here in the right direction.

  • http://www.smc-seo.co.uk Stuart Mark Condé

    This is interesting. I’ve had people telling me I should be using various Google technologies over the years such as Wave and, looking at this article, I’m glad I didn’t invest the time.

    However, I guess if you’re blasting out ideas at the rate that Google does, your going to have a few failures.

  • http://www.exittoshell.com Tim M.

    What was once Google Gears has been fully absorbed into modern web browsers under the catch-all label of HTML5. So I would call much of that work a success, but not as a discrete product.

  • WaltFrench

    I’d sure love to hear some success stories about the benefits-vs-costs of Honeycomb adaptation. Some success stories, not just how much “tonnage” looks great for having been done. Seems that developers who want to support the tablet space might better stick with a Froyo code base so they can address BlackBerry, Xoom, Nook, Sammy & others, dealing with different resolutions by hand.

  • http://norskben.posterous.com norskben

    quite accurate ;P especially on appengine, and android (of course)

  • http://tobiascohen.com Tobias Cohen

    Google left a lot of people in the lurch when they abandoned Gears, including their own Gmail service. HTML5 simply can’t do everything that Gears can do, even in the latest browsers.

    Most of the “apps” in the Chrome web store are nothing more than bookmarks to existing web apps, with no additional features or functionality.

    App engine is definitely a success, I know a lot of projects are using it, although who knows how they’ll cope if/when Google decides to shut it down like many of their other projects.

  • jamiekeaney

    Google needs to adopt the “fail quickly” approach in their products!

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